Uzbekistan - annual report 2018

Study trip to Germany by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan on how to strengthen institutional capacities and to share views on juvenile criminal law and policy to combat corruption: Evgeny Kolenko (centre), Director of the Academy at the General Prosecutor’s Office; Dr Stefan Tratz (on the right), Director of the German Judicial Academy
Study trip to Germany by the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan on how to strengthen institutional capacities and to share views on juvenile criminal law and policy to combat corruption: Evgeny Kolenko (centre), Director of the Academy at the General Prosecutor’s Office; Dr Stefan Tratz (on the right), Director of the German Judicial Academy

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

In office since the end of 2016, President Shavkat Mirsiyoyev has ordered sweeping reforms in many areas that he is seeking to implement quickly: development of the state system; increase in the efficiency of public administration; social security; economic development; and establishment of external trade relations. After many years of isolation, Uzbekistan is facing up to the challenges of economic and cultural globalisation and is opening itself through a change in political discourse, privatisation and liberalisation of the economy. The release of political prisoners, the creation of a petition system and respect for the rights of migrant workers are merely a few examples of this clearly noticeable transformation. Uzbekistan has also achieved perceptible rapprochement in the previously tense relationships with its neighbouring states. Moreover, the country is making active efforts to attract foreign investments and technologies, as well as to create a more attractive image as a tourist destination.

The area of rule of law and judiciary is privileged and is ranked second in the development strategy. Transition processes that have already been initiated include modernisation of the general jurisdiction, strengthening of the independence of the judiciary, improvements in substantive and procedural law within civil, criminal and administrative law, as well as basic and further training in law and support for the legal professions. Measures have been introduced to combat excessive bureaucracy and corruption, to implement restructuring, to establish a Council of Judges to bolster judicial self-governance and to make new appointments to key positions within the judiciary.

2018 was The Year of Support to Active Entrepreneurship, Innovative Ideas and Technologies in Uzbekistan, which radiated into the legal sector as well. In response, the World Bank classified Uzbekistan as one of the 10 most active reform states.

This fresh impetus is impacting positively on the country‘s international relations. A significant intensification is noticeable at leadership and working level and is expressed in a lively and at times very high-level stream of visitors.

Overall Concept

The ten-year anniversary of cooperation with the Republic of Uzbekistan was a particular feature of the reporting year. The IRZ started cooperation with Uzbekistan in 2008 as the first country in Central Asia. The aim was to provide advice on building the rule of law and strengthening democratic structures. Partners over the last ten years have included key judicial entities such as the Ministry of Justice and associated institutions, the General Prosecutor’s Office, courts, the State University of Law, various academic institutes and others. Overall, the IRZ has built trusting and stable relationships by implementing numerous measures in a wide range of formats – specialist seminars in both countries, study trips, practical workshops, dispatch of experts to conferences and others. Moreover, a European consortium led by the IRZ carried out an extensive EU project on implementation of the initiated criminal law reforms from 2011 to 2015.

This decade of the IRZ‘s cooperation in the country was taken as the occasion for a high-level delegation of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) and the IRZ to visit Uzbekistan in November 2018, led by Christian Lange, Member of the Bundestag and Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection and Vice President of the IRZ Board of Trustees. Seeking to acknowledge the cooperation so far and to strengthen it for the future, the IRZ hosted a conference on the challenges of modern criminal justice on 14 November 2018, as well as a ceremony marking the anniversary. High-level representatives of the Uzbek judiciary took part in both events.

Criminal law remains one of the priorities in the cooperation with partners, especially with the General Prosecutor’s Office; this aspect was also reflected in the anniversary conference. At the event, Uzbek experts provided the participants with some insight into the current reform projects within criminal law and criminal procedure law in Uzbekistan. Other important topics included the guarantee of fundamental rights in criminal law and criminal procedure law, as well as measures to bolster the role of defence lawyers in criminal proceedings. The exchange of views during a subsequent panel discussion centred around means of simplifying and accelerating criminal proceedings, as well as on the digitisation of investigative and criminal proceedings.

The long-standing, trusting cooperation between the IRZ and the General Prosecutor’s Office culminated in a Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed during the visit.

An interactive series of events in the form of a moot court on criminal law and criminal procedure law was continued at the State University of Law in Tashkent in order to train legal methodologies. The purpose of the event was to practice with the students the implementation of criminal law standards, as well as to compare and analyse the order of criminal proceedings in Uzbekistan and Germany. Students were asked to participate actively by assuming all the different roles in the fictitious trial and hence received particularly illustrative instruction in the application of the law and the importance of procedural law.

The still young Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute within parliament co-hosted a joint seminar of GIZ and the IRZ attended by German colleagues from the Bundestag and Bundesrat addressing issues of civic participation in the legislative process, formal legal requirements placed in laws, questions of interpretation, as well as regulatory impact assessments for laws.

Foci of Activity in 2018

Public Law

  • Cooperation in the seminar on legislative processes and legislation technique in cooperation with the GIZ and the Centre for Legislation at the parliament in Tashkent

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Study trip to Germany for representatives of the General Prosecutor’s Office on how to strengthen institutional capacities and to share views on juvenile criminal law and policy to combat corruption
  • Practical seminar for techniques of case resolution, including moot court proceedings in criminal law and criminal procedure law for students and lecturers at the State University of Law in Tashkent
  • Lecture and discussion forum at the Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office in March in Tashkent on the basics of German criminal law and criminal procedure law
  • Conference in Tashkent on the challenges of modern criminal justice with the General Prosecutor’s Office, followed by anniversary celebrations marking 10 years of bilateral cooperation in November

Outlook

The IRZ will continue to work with its current partners, prioritising criminal law and criminal procedure law. The close and successful cooperation with the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Academy of the General Prosecutor’s Office will be strengthened as well. There are also plans to hold events with the Ministry of Justice and the State University of Law, as well as the Lawyers‘ Further Training Centre at the Ministry of Justice, all of whom are long-standing partners of the IRZ.

Cooperation with the panel of judges on administrative disputes at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan is scheduled in the form of training courses for judges in the newly created field of administrative court jurisdiction. In this context, practical elements of basic and further training in the legal professions will be integrated in particular.

Expertise with practical relevance will remain in the focus of all measures and their contents in the coming year as well.

 

Uzbekistan - annual report 2019

Participants of the seminar on legislative processes and legislation technique with the Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute in Tashkent:  Rakhim Khakimov (centre), Director of the Institute, and Gudrun Grieser (to the left), member of the National Regulatory Control Council and former Lord Mayor of Schweinfurt
Participants of the seminar on legislative processes and legislation technique with the Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute in Tashkent: Rakhim Khakimov (centre), Director of the Institute, and Gudrun Grieser (to the left), member of the National Regulatory Control Council and former Lord Mayor of Schweinfurt

Strategic Framework

Legal Policy Starting Point

The mood has been buoyant in Uzbekistan since President Mirsijojev took office at the end of 2016. The comprehensive reform agenda 2017–2021 is being implemented at a dizzying pace, accompanied by massive personnel upheavals and tangible pressure on state institutions to deliver rapid results. Despite the indisputable change in all areas, the political system remains centralist, nonetheless. The dynamic speed of reform is testing both – state structures and civil society – to their limits. In addition, internal processes are taking place that lay bare numerous contradictions and power struggles.

To a large extent, this political reorientation has enabled Uzbekistan to overcome its years of regional isolation. The intention is to achieve economic upswing by opening the country to investors and strengthening foreign trade. The new ministry created specifically for this purpose is tasked with the significant facilitation of imports and exports and the liberalisation of foreign trade. Also, after a 15-year interruption in the application process, accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is again in the pipeline.

Progress is equally evident in the rule of law, with an increase in the number of acquittals by Uzbek courts and prominent releases from prison. Independence of the judiciary, strengthening of the administration of justice, modernisation – including the digitalisation of judicial and administrative structures – improved quality of legislation and policy to combat corruption remain the declared objectives of the comprehensive reform project in the judicial system.

In May 2019, the Council of the EU presented its vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia and updated its strategy for engagement in the region. German-Uzbek development cooperation was substantially expanded in 2019 in line with the newly defined goals of the EU Central Asia Strategy and in recognition of the country‘s reorientation of domestic and foreign policies. The encouraging trend was underscored by high-level political visits during the reporting year.

Overall Concept

IRZ has noted an increased need for counselling in connection with judicial reforms. IRZ‘s advisory activities aim to foster progress in many of the initiated reform processes within the judiciary and court system and to counsel the key stakeholders.

Within this context, cooperation was intensified with the relatively new Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute, with priorities placed on regulatory impact assessment and academic support of the legislative procedure. This enabled questioning of the Uzbek side‘s ideas on how to proceed in the evaluation of legal norms and the substantiation of approaches for improvement based on relevant aspects and applied methods using examples from German practice.

The judges at the administrative courts, which were established in 2017, lack both experience in conducting administrative proceedings, as well as specialised expertise in the legal application of the Code of Administrative Court Procedure and the Administrative Procedure Act, which came into force in 2019. IRZ advised the Supreme Court in this regard, focusing on procedural principles, types of action and preliminary legal protection.

For the first time representatives from the Uzbek Association of Judges took part in the annual conference of the Memorandum Group of several national associations of judges, which IRZ organised in Bonn in cooperation with the German Judges Association. The forum offered Uzbek participants the opportunity to establish regional and supraregional contacts and to participate in the lively exchange of expertise on international cooperation in civil and criminal matters.

Furthermore, IRZ advised the Uzbek Academy of the General Prosecutor‘s Office on the reforms in criminal and criminal procedure law and on the amendment of the Code of Regulatory Offences.

Focus of Activity in 2019

Public Law

  • Seminar on legislative processes and legislation technique with the Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute in Tashkent
  • Study trip to Germany by the Uzbek Legislation and Parliamentary Research Institute on principles and procedures for evaluating legislation and regulatory impact assessment
  • Training for administrative judges on practical issues of administrative procedure in Tashkent
  • Participation in the International Conference of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan on administrative procedure and administrative court jurisdiction in Tashkent

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Seminar and exchange of experience on current reforms in criminal and criminal procedure law with the Academy at the General Prosecutor‘s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent
  • Round table on current reforms in criminal and criminal procedure law and on the amendment of the Code of Regulatory Offences with the Academy at the General Prosecutor‘s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent
  • Participation in the conference marking the 1st anniversary of the Academy at the General Prosecutor‘s Office in Tashkent

Outlook

IRZ plans to continue cooperation in the priority areas of public law, criminal law and criminal procedure law. In doing so, it would like to keep advising its established cooperation partners with the inclusion of practical content. The need for counselling on the application of the law will remain very high with the development of administrative court jurisdiction and the amendment of substantive and procedural criminal law standards.

Uzbekistan - annual report 2017

Event to strengthen the capacities in the area of further training of public prosecutors with the further training facility of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent: Evgeniy Kolenko, Head of Training Facility at the General Prosecutor’s Office (5 th from left front); Lawyer Philipp Wendt, Managing Director of the German Lawyers´ Academy (left); Dr. Stefan Tratz, Judge at the Higher Court, Director of the German Judicial Academy (1 st row, 6 th from right)
Event to strengthen the capacities in the area of further training of public prosecutors with the further training facility of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent: Evgeniy Kolenko, Head of Training Facility at the General Prosecutor’s Office (5 th from left front); Lawyer Philipp Wendt, Managing Director of the German Lawyers´ Academy (left); Dr. Stefan Tratz, Judge at the Higher Court, Director of the German Judicial Academy (1 st row, 6 th from right)

Legal Policy Situation

At the end of 2016, the long-standing prime minister and interim president from September 2016 to December 2016, Shavkat Mirsiyoyev, won the presidential elections with approximately 88 percent of the votes. He officially assumed the office of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Since then, the new leadership’s political signals have been discussed controversially: On the one hand, many new initiatives and regulations have triggered changes in the country’s domestic, foreign and economic policy that had been difficult to imagine previously. Among other things, an option of a direct online dialogue with the President was created, in which complaints by Uzbek citizens are received via a virtual reception room. Furthermore, there were clear indications of a new tendency regarding Uzbek foreign policy towards regional neighbouring countries – Tajikistan in particular. In addition, the mandatory exit visas for Uzbek citizens are to be abolished from 2019.

In the legal and judicial field, both the merging of the Supreme Economic Court and the Supreme Court initiated by the new leadership with the respective resolutions and the establishment of administrative courts deserve to be mentioned.

At the same time, there have not yet been any lasting changes. The Uzbek society’s spirit of optimism perceived at the beginning of the new president’s term has since abated. It still seems to be crucial for the greatest demographic power within the Central Asian region to continue to maintain domestic political stability with the help of extensive control mechanisms. Simultaneously, the new leadership is committed to the pursuit of economic liberalisation and economic structural reforms. It is a declared goal to attract foreign investors. International influences are constantly growing, thus increasing the importance of Western languages, international experience and contacts at all levels. It remains to be seen to what extent the President’s ambitious reform agenda, demonstrating a new openness towards these influences, will be put into practice.

Overall Concept

Bilateral cooperation continued in consultation and close collaboration with the Presidential Institute for Monitoring of Legislation.

The specialist dialogue with the General Prosecutor’s Office that has been intensified over the last two years was deepened even further during the year under review. Three local events addressed current issues of legislation in criminal law and criminal procedural law, further training for the Public Prosecutor’s Office and juvenile criminal law. The seminars saw both a theoretical exchange of knowledge between Uzbek and relevant German experts as well as support in the form of a practical exchange.

The further training facility at the General Prosecutor’s Office needs to be mentioned for its commitment in modernising public prosecutor training and making the entire area more effective. For the first time, this training facility provides generally trained staff with specific prosecutors’ knowledge, thereby promoting the quality and recognition of the activities of the Uzbek Public Prosecutor’s Office. The IRZ contributed to this by organising an exchange with leading experts from the German Judicial Academy and the Academy of the German Bar Association in Tashkent. The German colleagues demonstrated methodological diversity in their teaching practice and made recommendations for the integration of lecturers from different professional groups at a “Train-the-Trainer” event.

The VIII International Conference on Administrative Court Procedure Law and Administrative Procedure Law in Tashkent serves as an example of consolidated German cooperation in the year under review. For the first time, the IRZ participated in this GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) -hosted conference devoted to lectures and discussions on the principles of administrative procedure law and administrative court procedure law. Legal practitioners, academics and various lawyers exchanged views on fundamental pillars such as the ex officio investigation, enforceability, exercise of discretion, protection of legitimate expectations or proportionality in various Central Asian countries. The establishment of an independent administrative court jurisdiction on 1 June 2017 entailed a great need for consultation, especially in the training events for judges, which the IRZ will address.

The privatisation of the Uzbek notarial system, which is planned for 2018, also triggered a topical need for advice. Thus, a delegation from the Uzbek Ministry of Justice travelled to Germany to gain an insight into the working practice of German notaries, particularly into the use of modern information and communication technologies. Furthermore, the ministry and the notaries from Uzbekistan also dealt with digital legal relations and a variety of electronic registers, facilitated by visits to the Federal Chamber of Notaries and various notaries’ offices. Expert talks with the representatives of the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection and with the Federal Chamber of Notaries and the German Notaries’ Association provided a platform for an in-depth exchange of self-administration and the chamber system of the notaries’ office.

Foci of Activity 2017

Administration of Justice

  • Study trip to Germany on the modernisation, digitisation and self-administration of the Uzbek notaries’ office with the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan

Public Law

  • Contribution to the VIII. Annual international conference both in academia and practice on “Fundamentals of Administrative Court Procedure Law and Administrative Procedure Law” in Tashkent co-organised with the GIZ

Criminal Law and Penitentiary Law

  • Seminar on the topic of “Current issues of legislation and practical exchange on criminal and criminal procedure law” with the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent
  • Seminar to strengthen the capacities in the area of further training of public prosecutors with the further training facility of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent
  • Seminar on juvenile criminal law with the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Tashkent

Outlook

The IRZ will continue its cooperation with the current partners in consultation with the Presidential Institute for Monitoring of Legislation in 2018. The plan is to extend the trusting cooperation with the General Prosecutor’s Office. Measures are also planned with the Ministry of Justice, a long-standing partner of the IRZ, and the State Law University.

Moreover, cooperation with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which was restructured in 2017, will be initiated, preferably with the Council for Administrative Law Affairs, which leads the implementation of reforms in the newly created administrative court jurisdiction.